The advocate

The Last Judgement by Rubens 1577 – 1640

So here is the idea.
We love great thinking. We love great work. We believe great thinking and great work works. Right. So the idea behind the advocate is that we nominate a campaign we love and then we call upon the planner, creatives, agency or client concerned to tell us whether it worked.
Unusually for adliterate it will not be about pouring scorn on rubbish work – hell we have the Strategy Cow for that. No it will be a way of knowing that the work we like does the job.
Oh and before you witter on about the IPA Effectiveness Awards providing the answer, it doesn’t. It only judges people with enough time on their hands (or a big enough freelance planning budget) to enter and last time they gave the grand prix to O2. Ou est le thinking? Le thinking est dans l’arbre avec le singe.
We will do one a month and if we get a satisfactory answer I will send the person concerned a new, improved Strategy Cow since I have secured a source of finest fresian, say no more.
Nominations for September’s advocate are now open.
Picture courtesy of the web gallery of art

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32 Replies to “The advocate”

  1. I think plenty of people would like to know about the success of W+K’s Honda campaign (from Cog to Choir).
    Or the Coke Zero one could be interesting…

  2. It probably isn’t that cool, but I like those RAC ads that give you solid advice for motoring – leave your car if you break down on the hard shoulder and all of that jazz. It told me some stuff that I didn’t know before and made me feel like they knew their stuff. I think the campaign was called “More know how” and AMV BBDO did it.

  3. Ya gotta love those Geico ads with B-list celebraties (Burt Bacharach, Little Richard) doing dramatic recreations of customer stories. Hilarious!

  4. Who are you calling parochial? I’ll have a look at the Geico ads. I’m quite interested in whether the CP ads for VW Golf GTI have worked.

  5. harvey nichols “must have” print campaign.
    I agree with Ben on Bravia.

  6. I’m with Dan, I loved those RAC ads, then they just seemed to go away. Does that mean they weren’t working?
    And I know it’s outwith the purview of this conversation but you can get Stu’s Honda IPA paper from – click on downloads. He makes a pretty convincing case without the need for econometricians.
    (I’m very pleased to have just used ‘outwith’ and ‘purview’ in the same sentence. Though maybe I should have used bailiwick instead of purview if I wanted to be really pretentious.)

  7. Shame those RAC ads disappeared. I think they were replaced by the ones where the RAC man wears jet-boots and follows you down the motorway asking annoying questions. Why the change? Maybe the public information service type ads didn’t have the immediate effect that the measuring people were after (% increase in number of people joining, which is what the jet-boots gambit seems to be unashamedly focussed on), but I reckon I know which one would have the better long term effect. RAC ad rant over.

  8. Love this idea. Especially because it seems like there’s a ton of great work that doesn’t get entered into effectiveness awards because a modest ROI just doesn’t cut it anymore – you need great ROI or a really interesting story.

  9. Dan,
    I’d love to know how your Innocent telly ad performs.
    As a planner at an agency where creativity comes in very expensive packaging, I touted it around as a clever bit of thinking that does ‘Innocent’ brand attributes in spades, without costing an absolute fortune. I find myself sympathising more and more often with clients who question why we need a top fashion photographer to take a snap shot of a yoghurt/printer/whatever.
    What about Guiness? Which work has been most effective for them over the last decade? Was Surfer as effective as it was beautiful?

  10. I think the premise here should be:
    I love that campaign – the thinking is great and the work is wonderful – boy oh boy I hope it worked otherwise there is no hope for any of us.
    Rather than a tirade against Coke Zero or a desperate attempt to prove that expensive production numbers with boring thinking do the business.
    I think the learning should be such that when we say you reallly admire some work and someone questions whether it really had an effect – we can say well actually yes.

  11. With that in mind, i’d also like to see how the Innocent ads have done. Whether their wonderful brand character has had as much of an impact in ad form as it has in the product and packaging.

  12. There are several I’d nominate, but without a shadow of a doubt the one I really hope works is Persil’s “It’s not dirt” campaign.
    It works on so many levels from a plannerly perspective, and personally I think the advertising is spot on. And if it failed it would be a disaster for anyone trying to convince clients that overt product performance is the only way to convince people to buy products.

  13. Vodaphone ‘rigidity’ campaign.
    Skoda ‘practical’
    Richard, I am quite interested in the new Pot Noodle effectiveness – my wife used to be a MB manager involved in the original ‘slag of all snacks’ research.

  14. I’d love to know whether the Pots work worked – seemed to come and go without touching the sides but then I would say that wouldn’t I.
    On Persil – we might cue that up but from the data in Marketing this week it looks like Persil is down in value sales in the UK by 6% YOY. Obviously I am rather gutted by this but it would be too hasty just to run off and say it hasn’t worked.

  15. I would say Skoda too, but not ‘practical’, which I think plays 10th fiddle to the original ‘it’s a skoda, honest’ work. This was the one that changed everything, for me.
    Also, at some point, could we have a separate award for campaign thinking that changed thinking for everyone, whether or not it was directly and immediately successful? I will always feel this way about Honda – whether it was effective or not, the approach was a revolution inspiring planning throughout this decade at least…

  16. the problem is that any decent effect will need time to show, and most of the stuff we like are brand building or repositioning ideas that need a while. Most of the current work won’t have had time to create a measurable effect… and often that effect isn’t obvious (e.g. Persil).
    On that basis I’d love to hear about the skoda work, or Persil… I’d also like to hear why the Honda work is under scrutiny (the implication being that either it hasn’t worked as well as it should have or some dickhead has got his hands on the data …. my guess is the latter) but I know that’s off brief.
    I’m also keen on the RAC work, which I loved and now miss.

  17. It would be a shame if the Persil work wasn’t effective. I think the thinking may have been better than the end results, but it was still a much better campaign than the average washing product…
    Pot Noodle would also be very interesting to know about.
    While much of the Honda work is very big overblown creative work; I think the thinking behind both “The Power of Dreams” and “Hate Something Change Something” is worthy of this section.

  18. Response to Jem: I do think that the Persil ad was not given a very good run (certainly outside of tv ads). I think with more time and slightly better creative it could have worked very well.
    And the jetboot RAC work really makes me miss the old stuff..!

  19. Latest Honda results:
    Consideration has risen from 12% to an average of 26% between 2002 and 2005. Has topped 36% at certain points.
    Sales are up 55% in 2005 vs 2000 (rest of the market only up 10%)
    In Q1 this year Honda’s was the 2nd most visited car website in UK (8th largest in europe)
    There have been over 3.8 million downloads of the ‘Choir’film from the website since the launch in January.
    Ad awareness tracks as higher than VW and Toyota on less than the half the spend.

  20. the darker side of my soul wants to know if Ainsley Harriot and his band of merry chefs have managed to shift more Fairy tablets…..

  21. I wish I could remember who it was for, but I saw an ad last night with a guy under his sink, when his son comes and asks him if he can help. He tells the kid that it’s a “man’s job”, and just as the kid is walking off, the dad has a change of heart and asks for a flashlight.
    There’s a nice touch of foreshadowing at the beginning of the commercial, echoed at the end. Very well done, and strikes exactly the right chord in any father or son.

  22. Okay no, Richard you cant seriously expect us all to smile and act nice just because you are a reformed character :)
    I’m sorry but I dont believe the Honda stuff works. Not like it should. Nice ads for sure but wrong for the brand.
    Honda is a fraction of Toyota in Europe and isnt growing as fast either. You cannot make your brand trendy unless your products are markedly different. Toyota Prius is a really cool car success story, so was the VW Bug and the Mini. I for one didnt give the Honda hybrid a moment’s consideration when i bought my Prius. It just isnt a brand that figures beyond having nice ads. A bit like Levi’s in that respect.
    Why on earth did they think ‘cool ads’ would make them cool? And why didnt they start with the true strengths of the brand?
    Honda in the States is a very different story. Over there it led the way; the Civic was the city car that killed the American gas guzzler. They should have been replicating that in Europe if you ask me. (At a pound a litre…) That was very like the Bernbach vision for the Beetle, the ads happened to to be good ads, but they started off by having a point.
    Here is the Honda automobile data from the annual report, excluding America & Japan (which account for 70% of Honda sales and are the only places you could say this is a serious brand but are too mature to show significant growth):
    Europe 231 (2004) up to 291 (06) +25%:
    Asia 341(04) up to 521(06) +62%:
    Other 137(04) up to 201(06) +46%:
    That suggests to me that, in similar countries (where Honda is small) with the same new model introductions (which is the main determinant of car marque growth) they were MUCH more successful where they didnt run those cool ads.
    On Innocent my question would be which ads; the old ones (fruit shot) or the new ones (political)?
    And finally to get on-topic, of mainstream TV ad type campaigns I’d actually applaud the one I would love to know about is the Mars Believe thing. I thought it was great, deserved to work (they changed the brand name how cool is that!) but I’ve no idea if it did.

  23. But you have to bear in mind the state that the Honda brand was in throughout the UK before W+K started their work.
    It was a brand mostly bought by old people, it (as far as I have ever seen/read) completely lacked any character or style, and was almost seen as a non-choice by most under 50 year olds.
    There is no way you could say that is the case now. If Neil’s figures are correct (and I have no doubt they are) then a 45% above the average growth in 5 years on less spend than their main rivals is undeniable proof that it has worked. Whether this caught Honda up or put them ahead doesnt really matter; in terms of (the likely) objectives its clearly been a success.
    I dont think you could say they are for the wrong brand. The whole planning behind the campaign was specifically created by looking at the brand and what it stood for. It may not match your perception of the brand, but that of course is the problem Honda had. Their brand image didntmatch their brand character, and now it mostly does.
    Its also very difficult to compare cross continent car sales, as they are different markets with different needs. Its a useful figure to have, but too uncertain in my book at least.
    I find it amusing that you quote Levis, didnt their first “cool” campaign cause something like a 400% increase in sales? It may be a bit stale now… but the concept did work!
    The Mars thing was brave, but I thought the ads were poor at getting the idea across. Nice idea, shame about the execution…

  24. John …. I expect the ‘Believe’ stuff wouldn’t have worked because it encouraged our misguided belief in a bunch of overpaid useless idiots who have no idea, can’t compete and were managed by an ego-centric scandinavian who mistakes compulsive obesession for strategy (that would be the creative dept?)
    Sure it was brave, but flawed. A brand asking the team to deliver and then being wrapped in disappointment.
    Perhaps they should have changed the wrapper after we were outwitted by the Portuguese; perhaps ‘Bugger’?
    Now THAT would have been brave.

  25. I’m commenting on this as a non-adversing person – a genuine punter.
    The Mars Believe campaign had to be quickly changed in Scotland to promote the *next* World Cup in 2010, which is obviously a bit daft. It lost a good few Scottish customers, and everyone knows Scots like their sweets.
    My favourite ad was from a few years ago – the advert for Clarks shoes that had a wee boy doing robotic dancing to OMD’s Electricity. I thought this was the coolest thing ever, a great song that obviously appeals to young(er) parents and a depiction of kids being imaginative and cool in the way they often are. Not like those awful cars adverts where they’re wearing cardigans and talking like adults, or that terrifiying one for toilet roll with the baby in the boardroom. As a parent it totally woke me up and made me think “I must go to Clarks, they might be cool now”. The advert they have at the moment of the wee girl riding an imaginary horse is in the same vein and I think it’s wonderful.
    I can see a lot of the adverts mentioned above are great pieces of art, very memorable etc. (eg. the bouncing balls) but I couldn’t have told you what they were actually advertising. The Clarks ones, and the Innocent campaign are ones that stand out a mile and actually get the point across about the product.

  26. This may not quite be right, because I didn’t particularly like the Lynx Clicker (I can’t stand Ben Afleck).
    Does anyone know if it worked? I have a feeling it probably did, given the number of lads I saw using the clickers on buses in Brighton. Any numbers though?

  27. I think Guiness provides interesting material to check up on. Having said that, they’ve had lots of different platforms throughout the years, with significantly different executions within ideas, so it might be hard to get a grip on the results. I think “Good things come tho those who wait” is the most interesting one to evaluate.
    I’m curious about Honda and Bravia as well, but there’s too much of a debate on their effectiveness already (the kind of budgets that get IPA cases as well). You’ll get yourself a figure war in no time…

  28. Hi Richard – when are we going to meet for coffee? Next week any good?
    Agree with your intention here on trying to find proof of effectiveness.
    Awyweay, just to do a bit of advocacy for O2 (‘scuse the holding company loyalty here) but the advertising was very well thought through; it was just “Rooney thinking” which isn’t quite of the same nature as your Huntingdon thinking.
    Wayne Rooney is a footballing genius who’s mental ablity to calculate time, space, momentum and even the intentions of others seems unsurpassed since Gazza. Asking him to explain his thinking “behind” each goal is as helpful as asking your or me to come up with an ideas to beat the Barcelona defence from 40 yards out.
    Now, yer Rooney Caruthers is an advertising genius who’s mental ability to calculate the emotionally persuasive effect of pure imagery and tone is also quite remarkable(although Gary Holt, then of Lambie Nairn deserves equal credit for the 02 work). I’ve never asked him to artiulate his thinking but I have asked his planning partner Charles Vallance.
    Charles would put it better, but the idea (and I think this is “an idea”, just as the passes that the other Rooney puts in are “ideas”) is that in a crowded over communicated world, the best way to emotionally connect with people is the use of a consistent “visual narrative” within which more direct rational sales messages can operate.
    This may be a bit too much of the “i just hit it and it went in” explanation for the Kasparov’s amongst you but it does explain the success of the O2 campaign (and much of VCCP’s work, perhaps)
    Bernbach and Abbot would not approve but there is much to be said for watching with awe the mental powers of a Rooney.

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